Border disputes erupt between Saudi Arabia, UAE; Riyadh denies
Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates, Politics, 2/23/2005
Arab Gulf officials said relations between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have intensified because of the return back of border differences that goes back to the 1970s to be added to other regional problems.
However, the Saudi minister of the interior prince Nayef denied border disputes between the two states. He said "this statement is completely groundless." This development came in the context of a regional situation in which tension has been escalated between Saudi Arabia and two other Gulf states which are Qatar and Bahrain.
A high ranking Gulf official said that "the UAE raised this difference with the Saudis after the assumption of the new authorities in Abu Dhabi," by the beginning of November after the death of the President of the United Arab Emirates UAE Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan al-Nahyan. The official explained that "the Saudis answered that this problem was settled according to an agreement signed between the two countries by the beginning of the 1970s."
Another Gulf official said that "Sheikh Khaleifa Bin Zayed raised this issue with Riyadh in his first visit abroad ( in December 2004) since he assumed power and the answer of the Saudis was that the case was settled by signing the border agreement between the two countries." He was indicating by that to "the Jeddah agreement signed between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in August 1974 which states that Abu Dhabi to keep villages in al-Breimi area including al-Ein, the base of al-Breimi oasis and most of al-Zafra desert. In return Riyadh got Khour al-Aided which includes that coastal area at a length of almost 25 Km which has become the separation line between the lands of Abu Dhabi and Qatar and part of "Matti" moor lands and some 80% of al-Sheiba oil fields.
Al-Sheiba oil fields include a confirmed reserves estimated at 15 billion barrels of oil, according to unfixed estimates. The field also include 650 million cubic meters of an unvested gas. In 1993 the two sides agreed to move the western part of their joint border lines slightly to the west on the coast of Khour al-Aided but no information is available on the area added to Abu Dhabi or the likely return that Saudi Arabia got, besides the reason for the amendment of this agreement is not known.
The Jeddah agreement is viewed in the UAE as unfair because of the need the the young state of the UAE had for the Saudi recognition. Actually Saudi Arabia which received with satisfaction in 1971 the evacuation of the British forces from the region refused then to recognize the UAE as a state and set a condition to settle the border differences with Abu Dhabi first. The UAE felt being forced into the situation.
On the other hand, a third Gulf official said that Saudi Arabia "tried in vain to ease down the atmospheres with the UAE during the visit of the Saudi defense minister prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz to Abu Dhabi" on January 15. The official also indicated that the "project to build a bridge linking between the UAE and Qatar also falls in the course of this crisis."
On the other hand, the same official added that "the other point of difference in the relations between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh lies in that it is presumed that the UAE will be the second state after Bahrain to sign a free trade agreement with the USA." Negotiations with the UAE to this effect will start on March 8 while negotiations with Oman, the other member in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is expected on March 12. Manama signed in September 2004 a similar agreement with the US that raised strong criticism by Saudi Arabia and was a place of big controversy among the GCC member states during their recent summit. Riyadh considered this agreement between Manama and the USA as an obstruction for economic integration projects among the GCC member states.
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